Gondar is a Royal and ancient historical city of Ethiopia. It is the home of many Emperors
and Princess who lead the country from the 12th century to the last decade of the 20th
century. To mention just a few, Emperor Suseneos, Emperor Fasiledes, Empress Mentwab,
Iyasu I, Tewodros II, Empress Taitu. It is the home of the highest mountain in Ethiopia, Ras
Dashen, and the Simien Mountains National Park.
It is easy to imagine the intrigue and pageantry that took place back in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, when Gondar, then the Ethiopian capital, was home to a
number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings. One only has to stroll through the
banqueting halls and gaze down from the balconies of the many castles and palaces
here to drift back into a long-ago world of battles and court conspiracies.
Nestled in the foothills of the Simien Mountains in north¬western Ethiopia, Gondar
became the capital during the reign of Emperor Fasilidas (1632-1667), who built the first
of a number of castle-like palaces to be found here.
Gondar Castle, dubbed the Ethiopian Camelot, is not a single castle, but instead is the
name given to the entire complex of castles and palaces in the area. The oldest and
most impressive of Gondar’s imperial structures is the two-storied palace of Emperor
Fasilidas, built of roughly hewn brown basalt stones held together with mortar. Said to
have been the work of an Indian architect, the building-has a flat roof, a rectangular
tower in the south-west corner — which affords a distant view of Lake Tana and four
smaller domed towers.
Gondar was the site of numerous fine churches, a number of which have survived to
this day. Perhaps the finest of the Gondarine churches is that of Debre Birhan Selassie or
‘Light of the Trinity’, which stands on raised ground about a half an hour’s walk to the
north-east. An imposing rectangular structure, its ceilings are decorated with beautiful
winged angels and its walls with impressive scenes depicting biblical events, including
the lives of Christ, Mary, the saints and the martyrs.